Brisbane to Cairns 10 Day Self-Drive Itinerary


One of Australia's most popular journeys, Brisbane to Cairns takes in some of Queensland's and the world's most stunning coastline.

  • Brisbane to Noosa
  • Noosa to Hervey Bay
  • Hervey Bay to Gladstone
  • Gladstone to Airlie Beach
  • Airlie Beach to Townsville
  • Townsville to Mission Beach
  • Mission Beach to Cairns

Distance: 1859km

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Day 1. Brisbane to Noosa

Pick up your car or campervan. If renting a campervan allow round an hour or so to become familiar with the vehicle before leaving the branch. Depart Brisbane and head north for Noosa. The seaside town offers many boutique shops, white beaches with crystal-clear waters and world class restaurants. Before reaching Noosa, just outside of Caloundra is the famous Australia Zoo, which used to be home to the legendary crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.

Distance: 145kms, 2 hours

Stay: Two nights at Noosa Bougainvillia Holiday Park

Day 2. Noosa

There are many day trips you can do from Noosa. Montville is a must-see on your campervan travels. Approximately one hour south-west of Noosa, Montville is home to the best fudge in Queensland and offers quaint markets on weekends, amazing walking tracks, a cheese factory and a number of wineries. The small town of Eumundi, located approximately 30 minutes north-west of Noosa, hosts one of the largest markets on the Coast. The Eumundi Markets are held every Wednesday and Saturday. Or if you aren’t up for a spot of shopping Noosa has some amazing beaches!

Day 3. Noosa to Hervey Bay

Today say goodbye to the beautiful Noosa and travel to Hervey Bay. If you every wanted to go whale watching and see the magnificent humpback whales come out to play, then Hervey Bay is the place. The season runs from mid-July to early November every year and is a must if you are in the area. If you are planning on doing this today you will need to leave very early from Noosa. Tours generally start about 8am.

Distance: 190kms, 2 hours 40 minutes

Stay: Two nights at Fraser Lodge Holiday Park, Hervey Bay

Day 4. Hervey Bay

If you're looking for a little adventure then you may wish to visit Fraser Island. It is located just off the coast from Hervey Bay. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and is home to long white beaches, freshwater lakes, lush rainforests and an abundance of native animals, including the infamous dingos. This island is strictly 4WD only. Don't have a 4WD? Not to worry, you can organise day trips from Hervey Bay.

Day 5. Hervey Bay to Gladstone

Continue your drive up the coast to Gladstone. You can make a pit stop in Bundaberg, home to the ever popular Bundaberg Rum Distillery. You can take a tour through the distillery to see, smell and taste your way through the rum production progress. Children are welcome but there are no on-site children's activities.

After spending some time in Bundaberg, make your way up to Gladstone. Gladstone is perfect for snorkelling with the world-famous Great Barrier Reef just off the coast. Or if you prefer fishing, Gladstone offers a variety of fishing experiences from beach fishing for the novice to ocean fishing for the more experienced fisher.

Distance: 290kms, 3 hours 40 minutes

Stay: Gladstone City Caravan Park, Gladstone

Day 6. Gladstone to Airlie Beach

Prepare for an adventure when you arrive at Airlie Beach, a small town full of life from the locals to the tourists. There is something here for everyone. A must-do is a day cruise to visit the spectacular Whitsunday Islands. You can cruise to the popular Hamilton Island, Daydream Island, Hook Island and Hayman Island. A definite favourite is Whitehaven Beach, which is a stretch of brilliant white silica sand that is great for getting your jewellery sparkling clean! You can sit back, relax and swim in the clear, pristine ocean.

Distance: 595kms, 7 hours

Stay: BIG4 Airlie Cove Resort and Van Park

Day 7. Airlie Beach

Free day to explore. Maybe pull up a chair at a local pub or café and relax.

Day 8 - Airlie Beach to Townsville

On your way to Townsville, stop off at Bowen and check out the view from the local lookout at Flagstaff Hill. From this vantage point, you will see the amazing landscape below made up of rural farms which give the impression of a patchwork quilt. Then it's just a short drive the rest of the way to Townsville. From Townsville you can take a ferry to the family-friendly Magnetic Island, which sits just off the coast. If history is your thing then 1.5 hours west of Townsville you can visit the old gold mining towns of Ravenswood and Charters Towers and walk in the footsteps of the old miners.

Distance: 275kms, 3 hours 35 minutes

Stay: BIG4 Walkabout Palms, Townsville

Day 9. Townsville to Mission Beach via Tully

Tully lies north of Townsville in an area of beautiful beaches and charming towns and is the hub of the local sugar industry. Here you can visit the big gumboot or continue north to Paronella Park, a must-see on your trip. Paronella Park is a magical world built from the local rainforest, with castles, bamboo gardens (where movies have been filmed), a secret garden and a tunnel of love. You can easily spend a day at Paronella Park. Then travel onto Mission Beach. You can snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef, Dunk Island or even try your hand at reef fishing.

Distance: 240kms, 3 hours

Stay: Beachcomber Coconut Caravan Village, Mission Beach

Day 10. Mission Beach to Cairns

Spend a leisurely day driving up the coast from Mission Beach to Cairns, taking in the views of the towns as you pass them by. Cairns has a lot to offer for every traveller. A popular attraction is the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which is an old stream train that takes you up the escarpment to the village of Kuranda. You can spend the day exploring the village and then come down via the Skyrail cable car across the tree tops. The views out to the ocean are magnificent. Of course, a visit to Cairns is not complete without a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. There are many day tours or extended tours to let you experience the best of the Reef. If you have time, head up to Port Douglas, which is only an hour and a half away. Return your campervan by mid-afternoon today.

Distance: 140kms, 2 hours

Stay: BIG4 Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort, Cairns


DriveNow's suggested itineraries are made available to assist travellers create and build personalised journey plans. DriveNow does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of these itineraries and they are provided as is and as advisory only.

Special caution and planning should be taken when travelling in remote areas to ensure sufficient provisions, fuel and prescribed medicines are carried.

Weather conditions can make sealed roads impassable particularly during the northern Wet season. All rental vendors in Australia have restrictions on where their vehicles can be taken, therefore it is recommended that you consult with your vehicle provider on your intended journey when collecting your vehicle. Travelling where restrictions are imposed voids all insurance cover.

You acknowledge that any reliance on or use of any itinerary shall be at your sole risk.